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Wife’s land: Chhattisgarh Minister says didn’t know status, records say otherwise

Speaking to The Indian Express, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh said, “I have asked the Chief Secretary for an urgent report from the Collector and other officers as to how the land was bought and what procedure was followed."

Written by Dipankar Ghose | Raipur | Updated: August 1, 2017 10:31:57 am
The Indian Express report on July 25

While Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh said today that he had asked for an urgent report from the Chief Secretary on the purchase of forest land by wife of BJP leader and state Minister Brijmohan Agrawal as reported in The Indian Express, the Minister himself claimed he and his wife had done nothing wrong. And that they were unaware the land belonged to the state Forest department.

Rebutting this, Lalit Chandranahu, of the Kisaan Mazdoor Sangh Mahasamund, who first filed a complaint in the case in March 2015 told The Indian Express today that he had sent the Minister a letter informing him that the land was forest land — and had even spoken to him on the phone.

It was Chandranahu’s complaint that prompted several government departments to probe the purchase of that land.

Agrawal’s wife Sarita Agrawal bought 4.12 hectares of land that was donated by one farmer Vishnu Sahu to the Water Resources Department (WRD) in 1994, then transferred to the Forest department, with Rs 22.90 lakh also spent on it in 2003 for afforestation.

A resort is now being built on the land, with additional land for the project also acquired by companies in which the Minister’s son Abhishek Agrawal and wife Sarita Agrawal are partners. Also read: Chhattisgarh minister’s wife buys state forest land to build a resort, his dept says we can do nothing. Click here. 

Asked to explain the purchase, Minister Brajmohan Agrawal said, “Whatever we have done, we have followed all rules. The land that is being talked about acquired by my wife and my son was in the name of the farmer that it was purchased from. I think there is no mistake from our end. If there is a mistake, it is the seller’s fault which is why I think this is no issue.”

But Chandranahu says his letter had alerted the Minister. Dated December 26, 2015, the letter, a copy of which is with The Indian Express, states that the land is forest land, transferred by the water resources department after the latter acquired it as “daan” in 1994. Chandranahu said that about a week after his letter was sent, he received a phone call from the minister himself. “He told me my information was incorrect and there was no wrongdoing. I told him I was not questioning his honesty but telling him what government documents stated. He only said that my information was incorrect and that is where my conversation ended,” Chandranahu said. Also Read | ‘Kuch dalal aaye the… later, I found that mantriji bought the land’ Click here

Asked about Chandranahu’s claim, Brijmohan Agrawal said: “I only want to say two lines. At the time the land was bought, it was registered to a farmer and all rules were followed, registry done, payments made. This has even been mentioned in my election affidavit. My family has not indulged in any malpractice.”

Ironically, the Minister’s claim that he was unaware flies in the face of official records which clearly establish that several government departments were aware of the status of the land when Agrawal was MLA and, subsequently, then Minister.

And when Chandranahu’s complaint was received, different government departments, including WRD, the minister of which is Agrawal himself, looked into the matter and confirmed what records showed: that the land was transferred to the Forest Department but revenue records weren’t changed and the land was bought by Sarita Agrawal.

In December 2016, a whistleblower sent a complaint to the PMO which was forwarded to Chief Secretary Vivek Dhand. He asked the Collector for a report which reiterated the same facts quoting Water Resources Department records.

After the Forest Department wrote to WRD to change the records to forest land, WRD acknowledged that the land was forest land, acquired by Sarita Agrawal, but the department could take no action.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh said, “I have asked the Chief Secretary for an urgent report from the Collector and other officers as to how the land was bought and what procedure was followed. Right now we are looking at what evidence there is. After that whatever details emerge, we will move forward on the basis of that.”

The Opposition parties called for the Minister to step down. Congress Leader of Opposition T S Singhdeo shot off a letter to the Chief Minister asking for an external agency to probe the matter with Chhattisgarh Janata Congress leader Amit Jogi calling for an FIR as well.

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